It might not be quite as sharp a tool as the Renault Twingo RS but the Suzuki Swift Sport is still capable of dishing out some proper fast hatch thrills, writes The Wheel Deal.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been pondering just how the proposed media tribunal would affect the inner workings of South African motor journalism. And after some serious internal debate I’ve basically come to the conclusion that us scribes will only be allowed to review cars that tenderpreneurs, megalomaniacs and the odd aspiring dictator would like driving to and from some tax-funded pageant of power and intimidation. Now of course this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as our garages will be permanently crammed with the very latest luxury offerings from Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Range Rover. Really, I can handle this. What I couldn’t is the fact that – not in keeping the with the Breitling and caviar world of the aforementioned – we’ll be banned from testing affordable hot hatchbacks like the Renault Twingo RS or Fiat Panda 100HP. And this is a travesty because these machines really offer up a lot of driving bang for your buck. Take the Suzuki Swift Sport for example.
Dripping with Junior World Rally Championship credentials, this pert little three-door comes dressed in the sort of cosmetic tinsel that gets fast hatch fans like me all hot under the collar. From that aggressive front bumper that smirks with intent right down those two bazooka-sized tailpipes sticking out of the rear diffuser, this Suzuki looks quick even when standing still. Yes it might come across a little chav from some angles but unlike most of the play-it-safe cars out there, this all helps give the Swift Sport a character and personality that’s instantly recognizable. A similar look and feel has also been worked into the interior too, with the usual anemic Swift innards being mildly transformed with features like bright red door inserts, aluminium racing pedals and an extra-thick leather-wrapped steering wheel. To be honest this lashing with the sport stick isn’t quite as successful but it does add to the sense of occasion when you get into the frame-hugging driver’s seat (adjustable but still set way too high) and crank the engine to life.
The lifeblood behind that all-important Sport badge tacked to the Suzuki’s rump, this tuned 92kW four-pot doesn’t sound like much on paper but in reality it propels the range-topping Swift along at a fairly impressive lick. I’ll admit that below 5000rpm it feels pretty damn lethargic but once you pass this mark and give it beans right up until the 7200rpm redline, the scenery does start blurring with greater urgency. Of course as with anything fast and Japanese this means you have to keep the Sport up in its narrow power band but, mated to a closely stacked five-speed manual gearbox that cuts between cogs with the accuracy of a sushi knife, this simply heightens the fun and involvement of driving fast: you become an integral part in the process of building momentum. Disappointingly, however, no matter how hard you push it, this 1.6-litre screamer just fails to broadcast any amount of aural spice. Yes it may have a hairy chested four-into-one exhaust outlet manifold and two massive tailpipes but, annoyingly, the Sport sounds about as angry as a bee caught inside a soda can. I was honestly expecting more.
Thankfully out on the road you can almost forgive the Suzuki for this shortcoming as its chassis endows it with some impressive handling. Riding atop firm yet oddly compliant suspension, the Sport corners flat and steady with the sort of mechanical grip that allows you to carry through considerable speed. Best of all, it’s also an easy car to manipulate with the throttle thanks to its short wheelbase: come of the gas on turn in and that rear-end will swing out nicely, those Goodyear F1s chirping for traction. Consequently the Sport is a lark to drive but I feel it could have been a lot better had Suzuki spent more time sorting out the steering.
For although it’s fairly well weighted and reasonably direct, an unacceptable lack of feel means that on the limit driving becomes something of a test of faith. In fact even when mid-way through a corner and under load, you’re unable to tell exactly how much traction is in reserve until the front tyres break traction and you start understeering towards the nearest crash barrier. In time you learn more or less when this will happen but, and let’s be honest here, guesstimation really shouldn’t have to factor into the driving equation.
Still, us frustrating as this may be, it’s hard to not like the Suzuki Swift Sport. It looks the business, is fairly rapid in a straight line and is more than capable when you feel like letting off a little steam through the bends. So if you can live with that steering – and while I still can – I’d recommend you give it a closer look if you’re looking for something fun and affordable.
Suzuki Swift Sport Fast Facts:
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol
Power: 92kW at 6800rpm
Torque: 148Nm at 4800rpm
0-100km/h: 8.9-seconds (claimed)
Top Speed: 200km/h (claimed)
Fuel Consumption: 7.0l/100km (claimed combined)
Price: From R199 900